Aged care report gets the nod

PROFESSOR Colleen Cartwright has given a tick of approval to the Productivity Commission's report, Caring for Older Australians.

The director of the Aged Services Learning and Research Centre at Southern Cross University, based at Coffs Harbour, Prof Cartwright said most of the report's findings were sound.

With a million Australians already using aged-care services and this number expected to almost triple by the time today's school leavers retire, caring for older people is a hot topic in retirement communities like the Coffs Coast.

Caring for Older Australians recommends simplifying the current byzantine aged-care scene and providing more flexibility, encouraging people to stay in their homes as long as possible with access to low-intensity community support services.

The Productivity Commission also says a shift towards “user pays” is essential if aged care is to be sustainable.

The report proposes a simplified gateway for information, assessment, entitlements and care co-ordination, with an emphasis on “re-ablement” where feasible, so people are encouraged to recover unused skills and abilities.

Professor Cartwright said the report was long overdue. Most findings were sound, she said, including a new recognition of diversity in the community and the Seniors Gateway – a proposal from the Council on the Aging, of which she is a board member.

“The big one is the change in aged-care funding,” Professor Cartwright said. “People often strongly resist selling the family home saying ‘it is my inheritance', but you can't ask the rest of the community to pay for your parents' care.”

At present accommodation bonds from part pensioners in low-care accommodation can be used to subsidise the costs of wealthy people in high-care accommodation.

The report also offers an alternative to selling the family home. It proposes a government-backed scheme to allow people to draw on the equity in their homes.

The aged-care accommodation sector has been largely abandoned to churches and charities, while the low wages in the sector are causing workforce shortages. Trained nurses are paid up to $300 a week less in aged care than the rate in acute care.

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